Citroën has announced the first details of its new C4 hatchback model line, ahead of its world debut at the Paris motor show in September.

The C4, based on the same platform as PSA Group sibling Peugeot's 307, will replace the long-in-the-tooth Xsara and go on sale with a choice of three-door 'coupé' and five-door hatchback body styles.

The three-door has tailgate glazing similar to that used on the early '90s Mazda Familia/323/Ford Laser three-door hatchback and the current Honda Insight hybrid - a steeply sloping rear window meets a vertical glass panel at a 90-degree angle. There's no rear wiper visible in the photos; it will be interesting to see how clean all that glass stays in European winter driving conditions.

Another unusual styling touch is the integration of the side indicator repeater light into the door mirror mounting where it appears less prone to damage than in the outer edge of the mirror - as is currently fashionable with some other car makers.

Both C4 body styles are said to have "outstanding" aerodynamics, with a drag coefficient of 0.28.

Among the numerous innovations that Citroen claims the new C4 brings to the hard fought European compact hatchback class is a "multi-functional fixed centred controls steering wheel, which offers easy access to the centrally-mounted controls".

We think that means that the centre section is fixed, rather than rotating with the wheel. It's not actually a new idea, but hasn't been seen in a production car for several decades. Citroen claims its unique design will enhance safety by allowing the housing of a specially designed airbag that offers greater protection to the driver.

The C4 has other advanced safety features, such as an involuntary lane-departure warning system, designed to help prevent drivers from losing concentration or falling asleep at the wheel, as well as moving, dual-function directional Xenon headlamps, which provide improved lighting when cornering.

Other equipment rare in the European compact hatchback class includes a speed limiter and low tyre pressure warning system.

The new C4 is also set to be the only car in its class to offer laminated glass side windows, said to provide maximum protection against break-ins and reduce interior noise.

Detailed design touches include a scented air freshener built into the dashboard and a translucent instrument cluster that is able to adjust to ambient light, giving a clear read-out no matter what the light conditions.

Engines will be the latest PSA Group mix of petrol and HDi common rail diesel engines, most of which will meet Euro IV emission standards. Outputs will range from 90hp to 180hp for petrol and 92hp to 138hp for diesel.

Graeme Roberts